How York College Tries to Fight Student Food Insecurity On and Off campus

Abraham Khandakar (left) and Miya Bass (right) at the Men’s center handing out applications for the food pantry. Photo credit: Greis Torres

By Greis Torres

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The Men’s Center is coordinating York’s first food pantry, Hungry for Knowledge, which started at the beginning of the Fall 2018 semester as part of Governor Cuomo’s “No Student Goes Hungry” program, but this isn’t the only food program York provides to students.

Indeed, the Men’s Center has been running a food voucher program since 2012. Many other programs at York also give food vouchers to students, according to Jonathan Quash, the director of the Men’s Center.

“York has been addressing this (food insecurity) for the last several years but just through the voucher and grant,” said Quash who mentioned that the establishment of the food pantry at York is to better serve students while they are at home too. “So when the students said to us they needed food, we just gave them the money as opposed to actual food. As I mentioned for students who are living in transitional housing, you can have money, but what are you going to do? You can’t exactly go home to cook because you don’t have the facility to do that.”   

Both the food pantry and the food voucher program at York are part of the Petrie Emergency grant program which is currently assisting both CUNY and SUNY campuses to incorporate programs to address food insecurity as mandated by Cuomo, according to Quash.

Students who wish to receive food from the pantry need to fill out a form that contains the food items they would like to receive at the Men’s Center. Then, an email will be sent notifying when the order is ready to be picked up.   

As of press time, York’s food pantry does not have a physical space on campus. Quash is looking forward to expanding the pantry, which serves at least 20 students at York. The effort has been unsuccessful so far due to renovations happening around the campus.   

“At least we are looking at it from the point of view that it is commenced,” said Vincent Banrey, the vice president of Student Development. “Students are picking up the packages of food until we can get the full one in there.”

But The Hungry For Knowledge would not be the only food Pantry that York would be housing. Quash is also working to partner with New Ford Visions, a local food pantry currently hosted at a local church that’s being renovated. Quash is expecting to use Beaver Road as the location to house the food program in the meantime to both serve the community and students, said Banrey.

“The current idea is to have the people who currently use the food pantry, which is about three or four thousand a month, to not have to go terribly far away,” said Quash. “Most of them actually use the (Long Island) railroad, so they come through here on their way to go home because they most likely live in that area.”

The Beaver Road is still pending evaluation in order to get a permit from the New York City Department of Buildings to install the trailers in the area.

 

Cuomo announced in late August a five-point plan to alleviate hunger in students from kindergarten through college. The plan also required SUNY and CUNY schools to provide free food pantries on campuses or partner with outside pantries.

According to Cuomo, this initiative will make New York the first state to require all public schools to have a food pantry or “stigma-free” access to food by the end of the Fall 2018 semester. 18 CUNY campuses had already a food program in place before Cuomo introduced this initiative.  

This program was formulated as a response by a 2015 study done by Healthy CUNY, a campaign designed to make CUNY the healthiest urban university in the country, showing that about one in four undergraduate students are food insecure.  

“Hunger should never be a barrier for those seeking to achieve their dreams of a higher education,” said Cuomo in a press release. “New York is proud to be the first state in the nation to require every public campus to have a food pantry, ensuring that our students have all they need on the path to success.”

 

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